This week is Action for Brain Injury Week which is a week-long awareness event organised by the brain injury charity, Headway. Each day, we have been blogging about the different types of brain injuries which can be acquired and the circumstances in which they frequently occur.
We have a great weekend of sport to look forward to this weekend with both the Scottish Cup Final and Pro14 Rugby final. While football and rugby are both fantastic sports, in recent times they have had to deal with growing issues around how best to ensure the safety of competitors. With that in mind, the subject of our final blog is concussion in sport.
What is a concussion?
A concussion occurs when a collision causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull. The greater the impact on the head, the more severe the concussion can be. Symptoms can include disorientation, memory problems, headaches and loss of consciousness. The most common sports in which an athlete is likely to suffer a concussion are football, rugby and American football.
Concussion in football
When a player suffers a concussion on the field, more often than not they are reluctant to leave the field. Their managers are also not always quick to remove them from the match. It is, of course, recognised that there can be commercial pressure to keep an important player on the field but in some cases it is more prudent to prevent the risk of further damage.
To enable clubs to recognise and manage concussion, the English Premier League introduced a Concussion Protocol which provides that all matches must have a tunnel doctor to assist team doctors with recognising and diagnosing the signs of concussion. That doctor is independent to the club and thus not subject to the pressures associated therein. If a head injury occurs, the medical team will assess the player and he will be removed from the field of play if there has been a confirmed or suspected loss of consciousness. UEFA has also introduced similar provisions.
Concussion in rugby
A few years ago, Welsh international Jonathan Thomas had to retire due to epilepsy. This was a reminder of the head injury risks associated with rugby and other such sports of a physical nature.
It is estimated that the number of concussions in the game has doubled in the last five years. In England, the number of reported concussions rose by 59% in 2013/14 and in Scotland the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last two years. For the 2018 premiership rugby season, concussion remained the most commonly reported injury.
Given the recent studies and media focus on the topic, rugby's governing bodies have introduced guidelines and protocols in relation to the risks associated with head injuries. Both the English and Scottish Rugby Unions are trying to make the game safer and increase awareness of concussion.
The International Rugby Board has introduced the Head Injury Assessment protocol which includes a ten-minute assessment procedure. There is also a compulsory online module for players, coaches and officials and mandatory concussion management training for medical staff. The management of confirmed and suspected concussion is also subject to an independent review by no less than two experienced independent medical practitioners. Current head injury protocols carry a mandatory six days' absence for concussions.
World Rugby has sought to limit the further spread of concussion injuries by trialing lower tackle height regulations, while the RFU is working with World Rugby on the idea of post-game high-tackle warnings for challenges that go unpunished during the match.
By the very nature of these contact sports, concussion will always be of a concern for the athletes participating and something that all teams should take steps to protect their players from.
How can Harper Macleod can help?
At Harper Macleod, we have been instructed to act on behalf of individuals in relation to sport claims in which they have suffered brain injuries as a result of taking part in sport. You can read more examples of Sport Injury Claims in a previous blog online here.
Headway also offers a range of support to people with a brain injury, their family and friends.